Operation Safeguard: Part 2 by Dr. Abidan Shah & Nicole Shah

OPERATION SAFEGUARD 2 – Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  We are in part 2 of our message titled “OPERATION SAFEGUARD.” Last weekend, Nicole and I focused on the 10 kinds of homes we come from that impact what kind of marriages we will have. In today’s message, we will focus on the danger of isolation and the ways to intimacy in marriage. Once again, I want to invite Nicole to the stage. Last week, we heard from so many who come in person or watch online as to how much they loved and learned from our talk on marriage. We are hoping to do this periodically to help marriage and family in our culture today. As I mentioned last time, we are still in our series through 1 Peter. So, let’s turn there now.

1 Peter 2      11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Context: If you remember from last week, 1 Peter can be divided into 2 halves: first half is from 1:1 – 2:10 and its focused on how the believers in Asia Minor saw themselves; the second half is from 2:11 – end and its focused on how the believers should live before the watching world, especially with regards to government, work, and marriage. Verses 11 and 12 of chapter 2 are the transition between the two sections. Last weekend, I pointed out 3 important words in verse 11 that set the tone for the application: Beloved (We are all in this together), Sojourners and Pilgrims (We are simply passing through), and War (We are in a spiritual warfare with the culture which surrounds us). Now, in verse 12, Peter told them how to win this war – 12 “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers…” Why are they considered evildoers? Because they are now believers and they don’t worship the old gods and goddesses. So, how do they combat such accusations? “…they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The best ammunition against the lost world are good works of the believers that the lost world will brag about to God when he comes again. By the way, you cannot glorify God when he comes again unless you are saved. In other words, the gentile neighbors got saved by observing the good lifestyles of their Christian neighbors whom they were hating. Here’s the point: We don’t combat the lost world by copying their tactics of shouting matches, smear campaigns, and savage/senseless behavior. We combat the lost world with displaying a lifestyle that they admire and desire to emulate. In other words, we are called to win by recruitment not retribution. These are good works with regards to government, work, and marriage. Because of Valentine’s Day, we skipped over government and work, but we will be back. So, how can we have good works in marriage that our lost neighbors will admire and desire to emulate?

NICOLE:

Tragically, one hindrance to good works in marriage is ISOLATION. This is the heart of the problem for most marriages. God said in Genesis 2:24“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Unfortunately, marriages automatically drift towards isolation. What are the causes of isolation in marriages?

  1. Changes in our culture (devaluing of marriage, family, and children; over valuing of independence; influence of media and entertainment)
  2. Our childhood and expectations (from last weekend’s message)
  3. Selfishness (focusing on our spouse’s weaknesses and justifying our rejection of our spouse)
  4. Improper responses to the struggles in marriage (poor models, wrong advisors, no plan for crisis in marriage)
  5. Extra-marital affairs (Activities affair, Materialism affair, Career affair, Family affair, and Love affair)

Marriage is God’s idea and he desires ONENESS in our marriages for 4 reasons:

  • It reflects God’s image;
  • it gives us companionship in life;
  • it spreads a godly legacy;
  • and, it reflects the relationship between Christ and the church;

How can we have this oneness in marriage? There are 6 different intimacies (We are getting these from Tony and Alisa Dilorenzos):

ABIDAN:

  1. Spiritual intimacy – The first, and, I believe, the most important intimacy in marriage is spiritual intimacy. This is the relationship that the husband and wife have with Jesus Christ and each other. We talked about this last week, so we are going to dive deeper. This type of intimacy includes going to church together as a family, doing devotions together and praying together. As we talked about last week, our marriages should be a commitment between husband, wife and God. In this commitment is going to church to be spiritually fed together. This is so important not only for the husband and the wife, but also for the children as well. This sets the course for the rest of their lives. The decision to follow Jesus Christ is the most important decision you will ever make with the choice of a spouse second. Spiritual intimacy also includes devotions together as a couple. How? Choose a devotional book, preferably one for couples and decide how often you and your spouse will do them: every day, once a week, etc. We recommend at least once a week. If you can do every day, great! Also, end your couple devotional time with prayer. Either each one of you pray or take turns who prays after each devotion.

Don’t neglect your individual devotions because each of you need this as well. This is where scheduling is important. Nicole gets up every morning before the boys to do her devotions for uninterrupted time. It takes discipline.

  1. Intellectual intimacy – This type of intimacy is all about the issues you and your spouse consider to be important to your marriage. This could be goals for your marriage, values for your marriage and family or even creating a budget for your family. Intellectual intimacy requires communication. I can see the wives are excited with this one, and the husbands are tuning out! Maybe you can begin your communication with books life Connect Like You Did When You First Met or One Question a Day for You and Me. These will help to start great conversations between the two of you. If you are not sure if you need help in this area, ask yourself: do you know your spouse’s hopes and dreams? If your spouse asked you to pick up a toiletry item for them at the store, would you know the brand?
  2. Financial intimacy – This type of intimacy is sharing your financial situation. We step on some toes here, but first of all, couples should have a shared checking account. Too much mine and yours does not create intimacy. There is nothing wrong with having a husband’s and wife’s fun money account, but the main family accounts should be joint. We do understand that there are times that this is not easy. If one spouse spends indiscreetly, this can cause so much trouble. Also, if business and employees have to paid out of this account, this has to be done with trust. Having said that, your finances can be a great intimacy builder as you plan and dream for the future; or it can be an intimacy killer, if you both constantly disagree on how to handle your finances. If you and your spouse fit the latter category, maybe you should begin your financial planning sessions with prayer. Remember, God is the third person in your marriage. Also, if you don’t tithe as a couple, you will always have financial struggles. Abidan and I have found that if we are tithing, God provides all of our needs. It’s His money anyway, and He only asks for 10%.

NICOLE:

4.  Recreational intimacy – This type of intimacy is having fun together doing something that you both enjoy. This is where your hobbies might come into play. Is there something that you both enjoy doing? A sport, an outdoor activity, and indoor activity, or activities involving the arts. Here is a list that I got from Tony & Alisa Dilorenzo’s book Stripped Down, but you can find exhaustive lists on Pinterest or asking Google. If you don’t enjoy doing the same things as your spouse, make a list of your personal top 5 or 10 things you enjoy doing. Exchange lists and take turns going on dates doing something off your spouse’s list. You might find that you enjoy doing something that your spouse enjoys. At the least, enjoy being with your spouse.

5. Emotional intimacy – Other than spiritual intimacy, emotional intimacy is foundational for your marriage. This intimacy is the feeling of closeness to someone special in your life. You can have emotional intimacy with many people in your life: your parents, your children, your friends; but the most important person is your spouse. How do you start? Think back to when you met your spouse. You went on dates.

  • Keep dating your spouse. They don’t have to be extravagant; just spend time together.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. We have 2 books in our resource room that can help with this part of emotional intimacy.
  • Share a hobby together. This is doing something together that you both enjoy. For example, sports, crafts, hunting, travel.
  • Get away for a weekend. For example, a nice hotel in the next city, a bed and breakfast, or a resort.

These are just a few ways that you can build and strengthen your emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is the gateway to great physical intimacy.

  1. Physical intimacy – This intimacy includes holding hands, hugging, kissing and sex. This part of marriage is definitely influenced by the way you were raised. What were your parents’ attitude towards sex? Their attitudes towards the subject of sex have affected the way that you view sex. Ladies, if your mother communicated to you that sex was a duty or was dirty; you need a mind shift. If you didn’t already know this, God created sex. He said that everything that he had created was good. Sin changed that. Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” I know this sounds crazy, but you need to pray and ask God to change your attitude about sex. You also need to subscribe to the One Extraordinary Marriage podcast or Marriage 365 webcast, or both! Men, your wives need emotional intimacy to be ready for sex. Ladies, your husbands need sex to feel emotionally close to you. Some ideas to help you begin to work on your physical intimacy are:
  • Pray – Invite God into your bedroom, and He will bless it.
  • Do a sex challenge – decide how many days you will have sex, make the commitment and stick to it.
  • Adopt the intimacy lifestyle – Check out resources from Tony and Alisa Dilorenzo.

Isn’t it amazing that Peter included marriage in his list of good works that causes the gentiles to get saved! If your marriage was the gospel plan for somebody, how good is your gospel?

Invitation: Is your marriage drifting towards isolation or intimacy? Is Christ the center of your marriage? Are you saved?

Changing Seasons of A Marriage (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

CHANGING SEASONS OF A MARRIAGE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 3, 2018) 

Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To everything there is a season…”

Changing Seasons of a MarriageWe all have our favorite seasons. Many of us love the Fall with its changing leaves and beautiful colors. Some of us love Winter with its cooler temperatures. I know a lady in our church who left Florida because she got tired of the warm weather! She makes it a point to remind me that a perfect forecast is when they’re calling for below freezing! Personally, I love Spring because it’s a glimpse of the resurrection that awaits us. And, what can I say about Summer! Long days, beach trips, and the yellow inferno, which some call “the Sun.” No matter how much we love one season more than another, we cannot hold on to our favorite ones or skip over those we don’t like. They all change in due time and each one is essential for the next to arrive. Without Spring, there would be no Summer and Summer prepares us for Fall, which in turn ushers in Winter. In the same way, a marriage also has different seasons. We may prefer one over the other but we cannot hold on to any or skip over the ones we don’t like. I want to briefly explain the various seasons of a marriage and how that understanding can enhance your relationship. My information is coming from two books that have helped me greatly in my pre-marital and marital counselling: “Passages of Marriage” by Minirth, Newman, and Hemfelt; “Seasons of a Marriage” by H. Norman Wright. Altogether, there are five seasons in a marriage:

  1. “Fall Season” – It is romantic love filled with captivating colors and perfect temperatures. The air is full of expectations that the colors will never fade and the temperatures will never change. Unfortunately, the leaves start falling, the temperatures start dropping, and only the barren woods and brown grass remains. Unfulfilled expectations can sometimes lead to hurt, anger, and bad choices.
  2. “Early Winter Season” – It is marked by a growing realization that love is not enough to face the dropping temperatures. Bills, mortgage, and car payments have to made. But, it’s not all bad. It can also be a time of much joy and excitement with the arrival of new members in the family! New roles and adjustments have to be made but it is fulfilling. Warning: It can also be a time when silk sheets get replaced with flannel!
  3. “Late Winter Season” – With no Punxsutawney Phil in sight, the days seem depressing and meaningless. Being locked up indoors, the defects in each other become more distinct and annoying. Cabin fever can sometimes drive people to venture out to re-discover themselves. Someone cleverly called it the “go-away-closer disease,” where the spouse wants to be closer and yet pushes the other person away. If properly handled, it can actually lead to deeper intimacy and commitment.
  4. “Spring Season” – Just when it seems that winter would last forever, the leaves start budding, the flowers start blooming, the birds start singing, the temperature starts rising, and “love is in the air.” Having weathered the harsh winter of life, people become more realistic and mature. Don’t take this as some “as good as it gets” life. Instead, it brings a far richer love and appreciation for one another.
  5. “Summer Season” – Far from being the “last years” of a marriage, these can be the “masterpiece years.” Michelangelo began his work on the Sistene Chapel at 76 and created the architectural plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli at 88. Having been through the hurricanes of the Fall, blizzards of the Winter, hay fever of the Spring, and other unexpecteds of life, you are well-qualified for a masterpiece marriage.

Remember: “Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall; All you got to do is call” on God and he will see you through any season of your marriage.

Taking Resentment Out of Marriage

TAKING RESENTMENT OUT OF MARRIAGE – Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

This morning we are in part 2 of the miniseries HEALING MARRIAGES and our message is titled – TAKING RESENTMENT OUT OF MARRIAGE.

Matthew 5   31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Overall Background: Listen to verse 31 again, “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ Why would God allow divorce? Doesn’t it say in Malachi 2:16a, “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence…” Meaning: Divorce is as bad as murder. Actually, God didn’t allow divorce but Moses did. Why did he do that? The Pharisees asked Jesus that same question in Matthew 19 7 “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Listen to what Jesus said in verse 8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. Meaning: Divorce was the product of hardheartedness. In God’s original vision of marriage, divorce was not in it. But because of hardheartedness, bitterness, and resentment, Moses allowed it.

Listen carefully – “Hardness of hearts” is at the root of all marital problems. It happens when people become closed off to each other, bitter and resentful to each other, and even refuse to hear what God has to say. In that situation, God allows them to do whatever they stubbornly want to do.

Question: Is there hardness of heart in your marriage? Is there bitterness in your home? Is there resentment in your marriage? Have you turned towards God to set you free? Are you willing to let grace flood through your marriage? Are you saved?

3 things we will see in this message that will teach us how to take resentment out of marriage:

I. WHAT IS HARDNESS OF HEARTS? 

8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives,

Background: To understand this, we have to go all the way back to why Moses originally gave this command to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 24   1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, 2 when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, 4 then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; What in the world is going on here? Among many pagan cultures the wife was considered the husband’s property. He could do whatever he wanted to with her. If he got tired of her or if he was mad with her or if he was in debt, he could sell her off to someone else. Later, if he got over his anger or if the debt got paid or if the second husband died, he could get her back. God said, “Absolutely Not!” – “for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.” What God was saying is – “I see through your scam. Don’t try to fool me. I know what you’re doing. You are copying the world and that is an abomination to me. It is lowdown, disgraceful, and shameful.” Human nature kicks in – “But what if there’s something unclean in her?” God said, “Fine. Give her a certificate of divorce but you cannot get her back. I’m not going to let you make a mockery of marriage.”

Jesus refers to this as the hardness of hearts. If there were true love in the marriage, this would not even be an issue. Either the man was just a lowdown jerk or something terrible must have happened in this marriage for him to stoop to that level. It must have been something so terrible that his heart was hardened forever towards his wife. It could also be that the wife was not so innocent. She must have done something repeatedly or bad enough to drive him to that point. At the end of the day, either their hearts or at least the man’s heart had become hardened, bitter, and resentful to treat his wife like livestock that he could barter or trade or sell.

When hardness of the heart gets in a marriage, men and women treat each other like livestock. They do things that are unbelievable. Question: Are you treating each other like livestock? Is there hardness of heart in your marriage? Some example of this is talking down to your spouse. Then, there is talking down to your spouse in front of the kids. Also, talking down to your spouse in front of others. It includes putting your needs above their needs. Divorce is the ultimate but there are many other things that happen before that point. What has happened to your marriage that your heart has become so hardened, bitter, and resentful?

II. HOW WAS MARRIAGE IN THE BEGINNING? 

8 “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Background: What beginning is Jesus referring to? He is referring to beyond Moses and the Law to the beginning of the creation. How do we know that? Because in the gospel of Mark the same incident is recorded and it says in Mark 10   5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation…” How does Jesus know how it was in the beginning? Because He was there! As Colossians and Hebrews tell us, the Son created the world. It means Jesus created Adam and Eve. He brought Eve to Adam and saw the childlike excitement in Adam’s eyes. He saw Eve as she walked towards Adam. It was love at first sight. Jesus must have looked up and saw the smile on the Father’s face and the Spirit was all over them. Then there was perfect intimacy. Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” You can picture the angels high fiving each other and the Father says – “Boys, give em some privacy.” They were in love. She respected him and he lead her lovingly.

Marriage in the beginning is awesome! Like the French proverb says – “All beginnings are lovely.” In that “Velcro stage,” as someone called it, everything is “honey” and “sweetie.” I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. I hadn’t slept a wink the night before. Nothing crazy. No bachelor party or nothing. My groomsmen were a bunch of losers! I want to Photoshop them out of the wedding picture but Nicole won’t let me. I was nervous but excited. “I am getting married! So awesome!” Then I saw Nicole walking down the aisle and she was beautiful! Then the vows – Nicole cried the whole time. I gave my vows to her dad. I looked at him the whole time. I didn’t want to mess up. Bottom line: we were in love! When in love, marriage is amazing! It’s a glimpse of heaven on earth.

How does hardness of heart get in a marriage? In every marriage there are certain expectations. When these expectations are not met, it leads to disappointments, hurt feelings, and anger. When these are left unresolved, hardness of the heart or resentment sets in. Some examples:

  • Unrealistic understanding of marriage –people enter marriage with rose-colored glasses. He makes me happy. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.
  • Broken promises and lost dreams – “I’ll be home by 5 today. I promise.” “I’m sorry I had to deal with a phone call. It’ll be 6:30 before I get home.” Then you hear things like – “He was never there for the kids.” “She’s always there for the kids but nothing for me.”
  • Unresolved hurts from the past – When we carry old baggage from the past into marriage, we tend to push it on the unsuspecting partner. Things like childhood abuse, parental failures, broken relationships, broken marriages, and other crisis.
  • Trauma or crisis – Health troubles, accidents, job loss, financial troubles, etc. are unfortunate. They can draw us together or tear us apart.
  • Depression and other emotional and physical struggles – In the beginning of a relationship, certain chemicals in the brain can offset depression for a while. But, after the newness has worn off, the old creeps back in and with it hardness of the heart and resentment. Sometimes it is chronic sickness and health decisions.

I can go on and on but the point is this – “hardness of the heart” can enter through the expected and unexpecteds of life and destroy the joy and the fulfillment in marriage. Because people cannot forgive, forget, let go, move on, turn the page, make amends, step in the other person’s shoes that something as beautiful as marriage needs a certificate of divorce.

Application: What expected and unexpected of life has caused hardness of the heart in your marriage? Are you bitter towards your spouse? Do you resent your mate?

III. WHAT IS THE CURE FOR RESENTMENT?

Here are the steps to cure resentment:

  1. Recognize the danger of hardness of heart/resentment/bitterness.

Hebrews 12   14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: Resentment will obstruct your view of God. 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; Resentment will spread to those around you.

  1. Confess your hardness of heart/resentment/bitterness as a sin.

Ephesians 4 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

  1. Accept God’s plan for your marriage and family.

Colossians 3 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

  1. Repeat the above daily.

Illustration: Sunday evenings at our home are very uneventful. After a long weekend, we’re usually crash in the living room; watch a show or a movie. Then it happens – 9 pm and it’s time for the younger kids to head to beds for school next morning. Then either Nicole or I will remember – “Trash pickup on Monday morning!” “Whoa! Before you got to bed, please take out the trash.” We will usually get things like – “We’re tired. Can we do it in the morning? I got some homework.” Our answer – “We have to cause if we don’t it will stink. I’ll have to take it in my truck and it will be messy. We have so much going on this week, if we don’t do it now, we won’t get to do it later.”

Same with hardness of heart/bitterness/resentment – daily you have to take out the trash. If not, no wonder your marriage and family is reeking.

Are you saved?

Healing Marriages

HEALING MARRIAGES – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Today we are starting a 2-part series called HEALING MARRIAGES.

Matthew 5   31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Overall Background: Listen to verse 31 again, “it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ After discussing the difficult subject of adultery, Jesus turned his attention towards divorce. For Jesus to address this subject in His greatest sermon is an indicator that divorce was a big issue at the time. In fact, you may remember in Matthew 19:3 “The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’” The reason they questioned Him is because divorce was a hot-button issue at the time. And what is amazing to me is that Jesus did not shy away from these questions but faced them head on. He did not sugar coat the truth and neither did he talk condemningly towards those who were divorced. Instead, He told the truth but in love.

Unfortunately, the church has failed terribly on this point – we have avoided this topic; we have failed to help those going through divorce; and, sadly, we have looked down upon those who have been through it. And when we have discussed it, we have either treated divorce as if it’s not a big deal or as if it’s the unpardonable sin. Both of these extremes are wrong. What we need is a biblical perspective on divorce – something that will bring truth, grace, healing, and hope to broken hearts.

Question: Have you been through divorce? Are you healed from the pain? Do you know someone who is going through it? Are you helping or praying for them? Are you contemplating divorce in your marriage? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

This series is not to condemn anyone for past decisions but to offer help and healing in the present. What we’re going to do today is look at some of the top reasons why people get divorced and how we can prevent them. Although there are many reasons, we will look at only the top 6 reasons for divorce, starting with #6.

(My information is from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.)

#6. ADDICTION

According to the study, 23% of divorces were due to Alcohol and drug abuse. Marriage is tough as it is without the added burden of addiction. It is like running a three-legged race but you’re dragging the other person. This is especially harder when the addiction was not known in the beginning of the relationship. When it does come out, it leads to a lot of trust issues. It leaves a lot of resentment – “How could you do this to me?” Sometimes, there is knowledge about the addiction but the other person says, “Once we’re married, it’ll all change. I can change him/her.” It actually gets worse and worse.

For e.g. Growing up we knew this family down the street. The man had a problem with alcohol. At the end of the month, it was pretty much understood in the neighborhood that there was going to be a show tonight. Some people would actually bring out their lawn chairs and watch the show! It was very embarrassing and painful for the family.

What’s the answer? Commitment to solid biblical counseling. Titus 2   11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

Application: Are you struggling with addiction? Are you seeking help? Are you willing to commit to getting help? Do you see the pain you are causing those who love you?

#5. FINANCES

According to the report, 24% of the divorces were due to differences in financial priorities and spending habits. This is a tough one – children, sickness, accidents, things break down. Then, there’s the human nature, like the old adage – “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Unfortunately, many couples have no concept of financial planning. When bills start piling up and creditors start calling, couples tend to turn against each other.

What’s the answer? Learn how to budget, live within your means, eliminate debt, and be truthful with each other. Here’s another major answer – start tithing. Proverbs 3   9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.

Illustration: A well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill arrive at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they move along the conveyor belt to be burned, they strike up a conversation. The twenty-dollar bill reminisces about its travels all over the county – “I’ve had a pretty good life. I have been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean.” “Wow!” says the one-dollar bill. “You have really had an exciting life! “So tell me,” says the twenty, “where have you been throughout your lifetime?” The one dollar bill replies, “Oh, I have been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church….” The twenty-dollar bill suddenly interrupts, “What’s a church?”

Be generous. Proverbs 11:25 The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.

Application: How are your finances? Are you willing to get help? Are you willing to tithe? Are you willing to be generous?

# 4. EMOTIONAL ABUSE

According to the study, 29% of the divorces were due to emotional abuse. We’re not talking about physical violence here but it still hurts. Maybe it’s because of the way someone was raised or maybe they went through abuse growing up. Sometimes it’s because of past resentments. Couples take jabs at each other, especially in public. Many promises are made but things do not change.

What is the answer? Ask God to change your spirit. Ephesians 4:2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

Application: Is there emotional abuse in your marriage? Are you the abuser? Do you belittle your spouse? Is there pent-up resentment in your heart? Have you admitted before God that this is a sin? Have you repented and asked God to help you with it?

# 3. SPOUSE’S IMMATURITY

According to the research, 30% of the divorces are due to a spouse’s immaturity. Emotionally immature people are those who do not know how to handle anger, guilt, fear, grief, jealousy, insecurity, disappointment, and resentment. They don’t know how to handle life’s challenges. They easily get stuck in negative emotions. They tend to control people around them. They blame others for all their problems. They are self-centered and selfish. They may look adult but they are like a spoiled brat – Momma’s boy or daddy’s girl. They pout, whine, cry, manipulate, and hurt others. When confronted, they are in denial.

What’s the answer? Grow up! Ephesians 4 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—

Application: Are you emotionally immature? Are you selfish and self-centered? Do you blame others for your problems? What are you going to do about it? Are you taking steps to grow in your maturity?

# 2. INCOMPATIBLE

According to this study, 30% felt that they were tired of making a poor match work. The common statement is “we are just two very different people. It’s just not working out.”

What’s the answer? Marriage is not about compatibility but about commitment. Once you have made up your mind that this is it, then this is it! You have to do whatever you can to make it compatible – spend time, go places together, encourage one another, see the best in each other, and understand your own weakness and weaknesses.

For e.g. I was reading an article which had a true story of this woman who had gone through a divorce. After the divorce, she felt that it was time to start dating again and her friends talked her into opening an account on match.com. “She received her first list of potential matches and at the very top of the list, her top match out of thousands of potential men was none other than her ex-husband!”

There is one compatibility you do need to worry about – Does the other person know Christ? 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”

Application: How committed are you to your marriage? Have you tried to look at life from your spouse’s perspective? What steps are you taking to make your marriage work?

#1. ADULTERY

According to research, 37% of divorces are due to unfaithfulness in marriage. In the last series I talked about the causes and consequences of adultery.

What’s the answer? Forgiveness. Listen to Colossians 3:12   Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Conclusion: According to research, about 40-50% of first marriages end in divorce or permanent separation and 60% of second marriages end in divorce. Each year one million children in America face divorce and half will face it again. Culture is trying to tear down marriage. God is still for marriage.

What steps are you taking to safeguard your marriage? The place to begin is by asking – “Do you know Christ as your Savior?” Then, “Are you submitted to the authority of the Holy Spirit in your life?” “Are you living according to the Word of God?”

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